• Welcome to "Remembering Wilma Rudolph"

    Follow the story below.

    Click HERE to listen to an Arts Eclectic interview about the show.

    Closing Event at the Carver Library: Saturday, August 3rd, 2:30-4:30

    To listen to a narration of the story, click below and push the play button at the bottom of the screen that comes up.



  • Day 1

    Day 1

    A race begins long before they fire the starting gun. A race begins when they paint the starting line, string a ribbon across the finish line, and arrange the runners each at their own blocks. And when the starting gun is finally fired, it might look at first like all the runners start together and race together towards the same finish line. But look more carefully . . .

  • day 2

    day 2

    When Wilma Rudolph was born in 1940 in Clarksville, TN the officials had already begun setting up for the race of her life. Born a Black in rural American South, Wilma was already set back several starting blocks. Say the officials set her back five starting blocks for each marginalization. As the American South still saw Black people, girls and women as second-class citizens, she was seen as even further below that. The officials set her back ten blocks–five for being black and five for being a girl. She was born into poverty, with two working parents in a house very full of children, so the officials moved her blocks back another five yards. Being told that she may be too delicate to compete in such a physically rigorous activity at all, officials allowed Wilma to run from the safe distance of fifteen blocks back from the starting line.

  • Day 3

    Day 3

    Oh, and when Wilma Rudolph was five years old, she contracted polio which left her paralyzed in one leg. Her doctors told her she would never be able to walk again. No one even discussed if she would ever be able to run. (And if she’d asked the doctors could she ever become the fastest woman in the world, they just would have laughed her out of the room.) And after shaking their heads at her impossible dream, they suggested she leave the track altogether. But Wilma and her family had other plans.

  • Day 4

    Day 4

    Everyone believed that when the race began, Wilma wouldn’t have what it took to start. She would be lucky to finish her race at all. But Wilma Rudolph had certain fortuitous winds at her back. Perhaps ‘fortuitous’ isn’t the right word. Perhaps ‘Virtuous’ is a better word. Yes, I think it is. Wilma Rudolph had certain Virtuous winds at her back. Powerful virtuous winds, pushing her forward. Virtues like: Courage, Perseverance, Dedication, and Determination. And Love. Soooo much Love . . .

  • Day 5

    Day 5

    Including siblings and step-siblings, Wilma Rudolph’s family numbered twenty-two, though that wasn’t unheard of back then! — Similarly, many of the siblings still lived together in her family’s small home. With so many mouths to feed, it was an impoverished upbringing. but while her family may have been poor in money, they were rich in love.

  • Day 6

    Day 6

    Because while all those brothers and sisters meant that meals must be shared between a lot of hungry children, those same brothers and sisters sparked a lot of love that could also be shared between them. So much love, in fact, that although they didn’t even have electricity, it lit their home at night and on their darkest days.

  • Day 7

    Day 7

    Wilma Rudolph’s doctors told her she would never be able to walk again. But Wilma Rudolph’s mother, Blanche Rudolph, told Wilma that she would. And though doctors know a lot about how the body works, and how a body is likely to heal, mothers know how the spirit works, and what is possible to heal.

  • Day 8

    Day 8

    And so the virtuous winds of her mother’s Faith and her family’s Love blew Wilma to Meharry Medical College in Nashville, 50 miles each way, once a week, for two long years. It was the closest hospital that would treat Black patients in 1945. Wilma’s long journey to recovery began with the long journey to Nashville, which her mother made with her over 100 times. And then there was the homework . . .

  • Day 9

    Day 9

    At Meharry Medical College, the doctors and nurses taught Wilma’s family a special technique for massaging Wilma’s paralyzed leg that would help her muscles begin to whisper gently to her nerves again, to reawaken them so she might regain control of her leg. Four times a day for two years — FOUR TIMES A DAY! — Wilma’s brothers and sisters took turns massaging her leg at home. Love can take many forms. In Wilma Rudolph’s childhood home, for two long years, Love took the form of her brothers’ and sisters’ tired fingers, and the tedium of missed opportunities to go out and play with their friends, choosing instead to stay inside and rub their sister’s leg back to life.

  • Day 10

    Day 10

    Wilma Rudolph’s mother, Blanche Rudolph, was right. Through her unwavering conviction, and  through the commitment and determination of her brothers and sisters, Wilma Rudolph’s leg managed  to slowly recover, nerve by nerve, and step by step. She was able to walk again! In 1952, at the age of 12, Wilma Rudolph was finally able to remove her leg brace for the last time. And eventually, she was able to skip again, and jump again, and run! In fact, she healed so well, eventually she could do more than just run like her family and friends. . .

  • Day 11

    Day 11

    And where once polio had moved the finish line for Wilma Rudolph almost impossibly far away from the starting line, her family seized the ribbon, and retied it triumphantly, well within sight. And she’d forever feel the steady breeze of their Love and Faith and Commitment blowing against her back as she ran. And she ran faster and faster and faster.